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Paynes Prairie - La Chua Trail

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

April 23rd 2022

481 Camp Ranch Rd Gainesville, FL 32641

The best place to see alligators in the home of the Gators.

What makes Paynes Prairie is the massive sink hole that resides in it, the Alachua Sink. Sometimes this sink will clog, and create a small lake, which is why half of the trail is closed this day.

The closed trail leading to the Prairie observation post

When the sink is clear, the La Chua trail leads 3.1 mile round-trip over boardwalks to a large Prairie overlook.

Type of Habitat: Wet Prairie

Weather: Sunny

Air Temperature: 87° F

See all of my observations from La Chua Trail on iNaturalist


I Notice, I wonder, It Reminds me of

La Chua Trail is always beaming with life above and below. On this excursion, I saw several different birds and plants, but one notable creature that I have not seen here before is the Purple Gallinule.

I have only ever seen a Purple Gallinule before further south both in the Everglades, and Apopka, FL. I recognized it immediately with its bright iridescent coat glistening in the sun, but it's second most identifiable feature is its large yellow feet. The Gallinule looks very similar to its Moorhen relative with their red forehead and large feet to walk across the marsh grass. Their most noticeable difference is in their feather color.

The Moorhen is mostly brown/black with a hint of white in their wings and tails.

Prominent animals and species

As I said before, Paynes Prairie is beaming with life. From birds, to frogs, and most famously the alligators.

Featured above: Snowy White Egret, Great White Egret, Lumpkin, Common Water Hyacinth, Apple Snail Eggs (invasive).

Great White Egret Wading

Last but not least, the American Alligator

This time of year, the alligators are laying out sunbathing and casually reminding the Prairie who is at the top of the food chain. This fella (or gal) slid its way up just as I met the end of the boardwalk. Below you will see another picture of what NOT to do when at freshwater body with alligators present

You can see the barrier placed at the end of the boardwalk to signify the rest of the trail is closed. The trail to the observation tower has been closed for multiple years now because the sinkhole is filled and has flooded the path. As a result, the alligators now wander easily right onto the old pathway, and do not recognize it as a human inhabited space. These two people are making a big no-no by being across this gate.

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1 Comment

Zarko Ivanov
Zarko Ivanov
Jun 02, 2022

I love the La Chua Trail! During the Winter months of December through February, it takes you on a mystical journey, weaving through the foggy swampland and revealing marvelous sights of alligators of all sizes, dozens upon dozens, lying motionless and lazy, soaking up all rays of the Florida sunshine..

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